Life and work
Dali Atomicus (1948) by Halsman in an unretouched version, showing the devices which held up the various props and missing the painting in the frame on the easel.
In 1941 Halsman met the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí and they began to collaborate in the late 1940s. The 1948 work Dali Atomicus explores the idea of suspension, depicting three cats flying, a bucket of thrown water, and Salvador Dalí in mid air. The title of the photograph is a reference to Dalí's work Leda Atomica which can be seen in the right of the photograph behind the two cats. Halsman reported that it took 28 attempts to be satisfied with the result. Halsman and Dali eventually released a compendium of their collaborations in the 1954 book Dali's Mustache, which features 36 different views of the artist's distinctive mustache. Another famous collaboration between the two was In Voluptas Mors, a surrealistic portrait of Dali beside a large skull, in fact a tableau vivant composed of seven nudes. Halsman took three hours to arrange the models according to a sketch by Dali. A version of In Voluptas Mors was used subtly in the poster for the film The Silence of The Lambs, and recreated in a poster for the film The Descent.
Other celebrities photographed by Halsman include Alfred Hitchcock, Judy Garland, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, and Pablo Picasso. Many of those photographs appeared on the cover of Life. In such photos, he utilizes a variety of his rules of photography. For example, in one of his photos of Winston Churchill, the omission of his face makes Halsman's photo even more powerful at making Churchill more human.
In 1952, John F. Kennedy had two photograph sittings by Halsman. The result was that one photograph from the first sitting appeared on the jacket of the original edition of Profiles in Courage. In the second sitting a photograph was used in the senatorial campaign.
In 1958 Halsman was listed in Popular Photography's "World's Ten Greatest Photographers", and in 1975 he received the Life Achievement in Photography Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers. He also held numerous large exhibitions worldwide.
In the 2007 film Jump!, Halsman was portrayed by Ben Silverstone.